Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Thoughts on Therapy
Divine Intervention

I've had five therapists so far in the course of my life, and each of them has been a positive experience. I would not have liked the earlier ones if I had had them later in life, and I would not have liked the later ones if I'd had them earlier in life, which I take as evidence of divine intervention. It also may just be that I'm the highly suggestible type. ("Yes, I am the highly suggestible type.")

I've never felt the social stigma that some people attach to therapy. Going to a therapist is not admitting that I'm broken or that there's something fundamentally wrong with me. Therapy is not just for crazy people. (But really, who isn't crazy?) I think everyone should see a therapist at least once in his or her life. It's like having a personal tutor in emotional maturity--as evidenced by how incredibly mature I am after five of them.

Therapist #1 (T1) was a counselor at LDS Social Services (now LDS Family Services) that my bishop referred me to when, as a seventeen-year-old, I told him I was attracted to men. It would be easy for me now to accuse T1 of encouraging me to deny my true self, to try to be something I'm not--easy, but also rather illogical. I went to T1 because I wanted to change my orientation, and if he had tried to tell me that I should accept my homosexuality as a normal variation of nature, I would have found someone else who would tell me what I wanted to hear. T1 helped me begin to deal with the angst of my adolescence, to recognize the connections and disconnections between feelings and reality.

When I came to BYU I knew I wasn't done with therapy, so I asked my new bishop to refer me to a new counselor at LDSSS. I got T2 (no relation to the Governator), a grad student in social work who had the same first name as two of my best friends, which I took as a sign of divine intervention. (It may just be that I have a tendency to attach a lot of significance to random things.) T2 introduced me to all the literature on homosexual reparative therapy, and I give him credit for helping me get to a point where I was confident in myself as a human being and no longer afraid of men--or at least not as afraid as I had been up to that point.

Then I went on a mission, came back, got married, and had a kid. It probably wouldn't have hurt to see a therapist at some point along the way there, but I figured that I knew what I needed to do and it was just a matter of doing it. Then I decided I really did need help making sense of the mess I call my mind, and went to the BYU Counseling Center. There I met T3, who was the first therapist whose explicit purpose wasn't to make me straight--he was not afraid to admit that that was beyond his expertise and perhaps beyond the confines of reality. His goal, rather, was to help me figure out what I wanted out of life and how to achieve that. He also helped me learn what it means to have an emotionally intimate relationship, and he was perhaps the most empathetic of all my therapists, which is something I really needed at that point in my life.

I thought that T4--who has the same first name as T3, another sign of divine intervention--was going to be Foxy's therapist and that I was just going to be supportive, until right before we went in for the first session and Foxy decided that she wanted couple counseling as opposed to individual counseling. I figured that if she felt a need to get help for our relationship, then we needed help. T4 helped us to be more honest with each other, which involved me being honest first with myself and then with Foxy about how I really felt. It's a little too soon to say whether that was a good thing, but I think it was.

T5 (aka Therapist)'s last name is the same as the name of the street I lived on for my first three months in Spain, which even the most skeptical of readers will admit is a sign of divine intervention. I wasn't sure at first that he was the right fit for me, as his approach to therapy is recognizing that everything we think is just a thought, everything we feel reflecting our perception of reality and not reality itself, which seemed to me a little too much like the Be Happy By Pretending To Be Happy philosophy I've relied on for most of my life. Yes, I can choose to be happy in whatever circumstances I'm in, but I can also acknowledge that some circumstances make that more difficult than others and choose accordingly. Over the past few weeks, though, I've found that there are subtle differences between my approach, which wasn't working, and his approach, which I'm liking more and more.

And if that's not enough to make you want to run out and find a therapist, then you really are messed up.


Katria said...

I should find a new therapist. But I've sort of given up on finding one that works for me.

Noelle F. said...

I need to get a therapist again.



Miss Hass said...

Yes, probably time to get back to a therapist and stop pretending I can solve all of my problems on my own. Must put that on the list of things to do when I get back from Spain.

Tolkien Boy said...

I don't need or want a therapist. I'm way more cynical than you thought.

Th. said...


I have no problems.

Josh said...

For someone at BYU who really needs someone to talk to, would you recommend the BYU counseling center then?

Mr. Fob said...

Like I said, I had a good experience at the BYU Counseling Center. The way it works, you go in for an initial intake appointment and talk to someone for an hour, and they'll figure out which of their counselors fits you best. They have a lot of them, so if the first one you get isn't working for you, you can request a change, I'm pretty sure.

And, of course, it's free for students, so you're not risking anything financially if it doesn't work out for you. I'd say it's definitely worth a try.

playasinmar said...

I think everyone of us should be wary of spilling our guts to the Y's therapists (and local Family Services for that matter).

They built a reputation of accusing us of being gender confused, overbearing-mother suffering, evil-minded, and selfish.

There's also that whole electroshock era.

That said, the counselors of today are not the counselors of yesterday. They will always be caught between what the church says and what their profession dictates. Yet, in recent years, they clearly have moved to be more in sync with the masters of their craft to the benefit of everyone who meets with them.

I agree that talking it out with these professionals is a good thing. So many of us need it.

Don't let the mistakes of the past keep you from using this wonderful resource.